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Race, Rhetoric, and Judicial Opinions: Missouri as a Case Study

31 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2017 Last revised: 8 Aug 2017

Brad Desnoyer

University of Missouri School of Law

Anne Gardner Alexander

University of Missouri School of Law

Date Written: June 12, 2017

Abstract

This Essay studies the relationship between race, rhetoric, and history in three twentieth century segregation cases: State ex rel. Gaines v. Canada, Kraemer v. Shelley, and Liddell v. Board of Education. Part I gives a brief overview of the scholarship of Critical Race Theory, majoritarian narratives and minority counter-narratives, and the judiciary’s rhetoric in race-based cases. Part II analyzes the narratives and language of Gaines, Kraemer, and Liddell, provides the social context of these cases, and traces their historical outcomes.

The Essay contends that majoritarian narratives with problematic themes continue to perpetuate even though court opinions have evolved to use less explicit race-based rhetoric. The Essay proposes that this rhetoric has been replaced with majoritarian enthymemes, i.e., unstated assumptions about race. These majoritarian enthymemes allow the underlying narratives of historic court opinions to retain vitality even outside of the courts. The Essay concludes that long-lasting societal change has been elusive, in part, because, without explicitly rebutting majoritarian narratives and giving voice to counter-narratives, even progressive judicial opinions cannot effectively challenge the status quo.

Keywords: Majoritarian narratives, enthymeme, counter-narratives, narrative, Gaines, Shelley, Liddell, Missouri, segregation, status quo

Suggested Citation

Desnoyer, Brad and Alexander, Anne Gardner, Race, Rhetoric, and Judicial Opinions: Missouri as a Case Study (June 12, 2017). Maryland Law Review, Vol. 76, No. 696 (2017); University of Missouri School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper 2017-19. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3001272

Brad Desnoyer (Contact Author)

University of Missouri School of Law ( email )

Missouri Avenue & Conley Avenue
Columbia, MO 65211
United States

Anne Gardner Alexander

University of Missouri School of Law ( email )

Missouri Avenue & Conley Avenue
Columbia, MO 65211
United States

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